Say "Hola" to Cognitive Reserve

Challenge


Do you speak more than one language? If so, you most likely have improved cognitive reserve. This means your brain is more resilient and able to cope better with the onset of tangles and plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, studies have found a link between bilingualism and delaying dementia. When all other factors were equal, these studies found dementia was delayed for 4 to 4.5 years in people who spoke two languages. Speaking more than two languages wasn’t shown to have any additional effect.

Not bilingual? It’s never too late to start learning a new language. There haven’t been many studies on learning a language late in life and the delay of dementia. Yet, we do know that the process of learning a new language challenges your brain. This kind of brain training is associated with prolonged cognitive health.

Where do you start if you want to learn a new language? You can pick up a “how to learn German” book from the library and read it chapter by chapter. You can watch your favorite movie and turn on the Spanish subtitles. Find someone in your community who is a native speaker of another language and get to know them. They’ll be flattered when you show interest in their native language.

Getting online or on your phone is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to learn a new language. There are a number of apps and online classrooms that can teach you a new language in minutes a day. If you go this route, make a plan of spending 5 minutes a day on the app to start and go from there.

References

  • Alladi, S., Bak, T. H., Duggirala, V., Surampudi, B., Shailaja, M., Shukla, A. K., … Kaul, S. (2013). Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status. Neurology, 81(22), 1938–1944. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000436620.33155.a4
  • Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., & Freedman, M. (2007). Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia, 45(2), 459–464. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.10.009